3D World

Fea­ture: mak­ing the lit­tle prince

Trevor Hogg dis­cov­ers how the much-loved chil­dren's clas­sic The Lit­tle Prince was given its an­i­mated over­haul

- mark os­borne Mark is a two-time Academy Award nom­i­nated di­rec­tor. His cred­its in­clude Kung Fu Panda, The Spongebob Squarepant­s Movie and The Lit­tle Prince. www.bit.ly/208-os­borne

How Kung Fu Panda’s Mark Os­borne em­braced this French clas­sic

nce you’ve made one of the most-loved CG an­i­mated movies in re­cent years, what do you do next? For film­maker Mark Os­borne, you tackle one of the most wellloved chil­dren’s books of all time, The Lit­tle Prince by An­toine de Saint-ex­upéry… and you do it by mix­ing CG and stop mo­tion. “Orig­i­nally, I was asked to make the whole movie in CG,” ex­plains Amer­i­can film­maker Mark Os­borne (Kung Fu Panda) when dis­cussing the cin­e­matic adap­ta­tion of The Lit­tle Prince. “I came back with the idea of us­ing CG to tell a larger story and to have stop mo­tion for the se­quences from the book.” The con­trast­ing an­i­ma­tion tech­niques would rep­re­sent the over­rid­ing theme that ex­plores re­al­ity ver­sus imag­i­na­tion and the dif­fer­ences be­tween the worlds of adults and chil­dren.

“Guerilla Ren­der is a light­ing pack­age that was a great so­lu­tion be­cause it gave us light­ing prop­er­ties for the CG that would match bet­ter with our stop mo­tion light­ing,” ex­plains Mark. “They were so sep­a­rate so we chose light and colour as the el­e­ments that were go­ing to re­late the two worlds.” Maya was the cho­sen soft­ware for the an­i­ma­tion: “We didn’t have any pro­pri­etary soft­ware so it was the best way to be up and run­ning the quick­est,” he con­tin­ues.

Key scenes

Mikros, based in Mon­treal, han­dled all of the CG scenes, in­clud­ing one of par­tic­u­lar emo­tional sig­nif­i­cance. “We’re com­ing out of the se­quence where The Lit­tle Prince de­cides to leave The Fox and to go back to his rose,” states Mark. “The Avi­a­tor is try­ing to make sure that The Lit­tle Girl un­der­stands this story as it will even­tu­ally help her to cope with the fact that he isn’t al­ways go­ing to be there for her. We were try­ing to cre­ate a sup­port­ive, emo­tional and nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment for this piv­otal re­la­tion­ship and moment be­tween these two char­ac­ters who need this bond to be strong.”

“We had a con­cept paint­ing for this lo­ca­tion and for the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Avi­a­tor and The Lit­tle Girl, which specif­i­cally came into play for this se­quence,” re­calls Mark. “Both sto­ry­board artists who worked on it were an­i­ma­tors so they brought a lot of sub­tly to the act­ing. It was clear, not only in the stag­ing, but also in the hand-drawn pan­els.” Most of the ad­just­ments that took place were with the set­ting. “The Avi­a­tor’s house is a clut­tered lo­ca­tion filled with a lot of ma­te­ri­als and arte­facts [in­spired by trav­els of An­toine de Saint-ex­upéry]. The over­all feel­ing that my pro­duc­tion de­signer Cé­line Des­ru­maux was try­ing to cre­ate of the space was that of a co­coon, a very warm and safe place.”

“There’s one ma­jor light source and that was in the orig­i­nal con­cept paint­ing,” states Mark. “The Avi­a­tor has a big win­dow he is sit­ting in front of where all the light is fil­ter­ing in through the trees in his back­yard. It’s beau­ti­ful warm sun­light.”

The light also in­flu­enced the an­i­ma­tion de­sign, as Mark ex­plains: “It was im­por­tant for the en­vi­ron­ments, props and char­ac­ters to be highly stylised so the re­al­is­tic at­mo­spheric light­ing would not be­come ugly pho­to­real.”

We got to do a fi­nal cam­era pass with a hand-held cam­era, which gave an ex­tra level of intimacy and feel­ing

Room to move

The num­ber of as­sets that needed to be cre­ated had a real im­pact when se­lect­ing the var­i­ous an­gles. “When­ever we made ad­just­ments to the cam­era it would have an ef­fect on the whole pipe­line,” says Mark. “We got to do a fi­nal cam­era pass with a hand­held cam­era, which gave an ex­tra level of intimacy and feel­ing, so there’s a real hu­man touch to that se­quence. We have a static cam­era for The Lit­tle Girl when she is in the house. When­ever we are with the Avi­a­tor the cam­era floats, the lenses are wider, and there’s a feel­ing of light­ness rather than rigid­ness.”

“Depth of field was used to help you stay cen­tred on the char­ac­ters be­cause the lo­ca­tion had so many de­tails and it’s such a rich en­vi­ron­ment,” states Mark. “If ev­ery­thing was in fo­cus it would be dif­fi­cult to con­nect with the char­ac­ters. I love us­ing depth of field in CG as it feels more like a minia­ture as op­posed to re­al­is­tic live-ac­tion. It helped to cre­ate a sense of scale and be­ing in a slightly sur­real en­vi­ron­ment.” And at­mos­phere plays a big part in the im­agery. “It’s one of the few se­quences where we have vol­u­met­ric light­ing and dust par­ti­cles in the air which gives another layer of be­liev­abil­ity.”

No mo­tion cap­ture was utilised by Mark. “The an­i­ma­tors cre­ated a per­for­mance based on the nu­ances and sub­tleties heard in the voice of Jeff Bridges.” But the wise old man has a dis­tin­guish­able phys­i­cal trait. “The most dif­fi­cult thing about the beard was get­ting the groom to look just right. If that beard is a lit­tle bit too dark the Avi­a­tor looks creepy and if it’s too bright and white he’ll look like Santa Claus. The beard was in­tended to ap­pear soft and invit­ing. In re­gards to The Lit­tle Girl, we wanted her eyes to be big be­cause it was evoca­tive of a child,” he ex­plains.

Keep it real

“We kept the mo­tion of the char­ac­ters re­al­is­tic,” notes Mark. “Rarely do they move in a car­toony way. Es­pe­cially in this se­quence, it’s all about sub­tly so there’s not a lot of ex­treme mo­tion.” Sta­tionery plays a role in the colour pal­ette. “The clear­est vis­ual aid to un­der­stand who the Avi­a­tor

is, is to think of a piece of pa­per that used to be white and is golden am­ber with age.” The hope was to cre­ate some­thing that felt like a sto­ry­book. “The sub­tle tweaks of colour and sub­tle tweaks at the com­posit­ing level at the fi­nal stage were es­sen­tial to the fi­nal look of the movie.”

“It was ex­pen­sive to change any­thing in our pipe­line,” re­calls Mark. “It took a lot of guess­ing. It was great when all of the pieces came to­gether and you could get to where you needed to get to.” The na­tive of Trenton, New Jersey, is quick to ac­knowl­edge the con­tri­bu­tions of CG an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Ja­son Boose, an­i­ma­tion leads Mar­can­dré Baron and Lu­dovic Roz, who per­fected the Avi­a­tor as well as the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween pro­duc­tion de­signer Cé­line Des­ru­maux and CG light­ing su­per­vi­sor Adel Abada who brought life to home of the Avi­a­tor. “When I look at the orig­i­nal con­cept paint­ing and at the fi­nal se­quence, I feel like we achieved what we were look­ing for.”

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The com­plex­ity of the Avi­a­tor’s en­vi­ron­ment called for com­plex 2D il­lus­tra­tions
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 ??  ?? It was im­por­tant to Mark Os­borne to keep the mo­tion of the char­ac­ters re­al­is­tic, so they didn’t move in a car­toony way
It was im­por­tant to Mark Os­borne to keep the mo­tion of the char­ac­ters re­al­is­tic, so they didn’t move in a car­toony way
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Depth of field was em­ployed so that view­ers could stay fo­cused on the char­ac­ters, as the lo­ca­tion had sig­nif­i­cant de­tail
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